Abortion Attackers Attack All Of Us Of All Faiths On Basic Human Rights

By Donald A. Collins | 19 December 2012
Church and State

(Credit: Center for Reproductive Rights / YouTube)

My 12/13/12 column about the fierce ideology driven attack on Planned Parenthood by a majority of Texas legislators in 2011 told how these fanatics moved some $73 million in family planning services to other programs.

This vicious attack on women, particularly the most vulnerable, the young and the poor, many of them minorities resulted as the NY Times reported in its 12/7/12 story,

“Now (these legislators) are facing the policy implications — and, in some cases, reconsidering.

The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.

Ahead of the next legislative session, during which lawmakers will grapple with an existing Medicaid financing shortfall, a bipartisan coalition is considering ways to restore some or all of those family planning dollars, as a cost-saving initiative if nothing else.”

This kind of religious sect based thinking regrettably has many replications around the USA as anti abortion ideologues violate our precious Constitutional intent which calls for the separation of church and state. As Wikipedia tells us, “Separation of church and state (sometimes “wall of separation between church and state”) is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson (in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptists) and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The phrase has since been repeatedly cited by the Supreme Court of the United States.”

In short, now across the USA, attacks on abortion rights have been mounted by religious sect ideologues to force their religious will on those who do not subscribe to their dangerous anti women prescriptions. Over 43 million abortions occur yearly around the globe and the only question is not how many will occur but how many will be treated safely, conveniently and economically.

Unfortunately, in the USA we continue to have religious convictions driving legislative thrusts and other legal actions against the basic right to choose abortion on demand which came with the January 22, 1973 Roe versus Wade decision, which in 2013 will mark its 40th year in force.

A December 2012 report just released exclusively to its supporters from the NYC based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) tells us that “This year, there wasn’t a single region of the country that remained free from attacks to reproductive freedom. Throughout 2012, the Center’s State Program monitored an astonishing 600 anti choice bills that would undermine women’s autonomy and fundamental rights to health and well being.”

The report cites a number of specific cases where CRR was a key factor:

1. CRR’s injunction temporarily held up an Arizona law which banned abortions for any reason after 20 weeks.

2. CRR stopped a proposed initiative to define a fertilized egg as a person from making an Oklahoma ballot.

3. A Mississippi House Bill requiring physicians who perform abortions must have admitting privileges at a hospital and no hospital there has yet so authorized the “last remaining provider”, which if this stands will force CRR to litigate.

4. In NC the CRR is in a legal battle over a law that requires abortion providers to show women an ultrasound, describe the embryo or fetus in detail and offer women the chance to hear the “fetal heart tone” regardless of whether women were raped or the subject of incest or a fetal abnormality.

5. Baltimore passed a progressive law that required anti choice advisory facilities (ACAFs) masquerading as comprehensive women’s health clinics DISCLOSE that they neither refer or offer abortion services. The Archbishop of Baltimore and other anti choice groups sued over the law and WON! CRR petitioned for a rehearing so this and other cities’ ACAFs would stop such deceptive practices.

6. CRR reopened its law suit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for imposing an unnecessary age restriction on the morning after pill, now requiring prescriptions for women under 18, who are likely to be most in need. CRR says, “It’s time for the FDA to meet its obligation to the public and make decisions based on science, rather than politics.”

Ideologues such as those from many religious sects and their elected laic sycophants will always be with us, despite the attempts of our Founding Fathers in our Constitution to rationalize relations and keep that wall between religious bias and government rule in a republican form of government.

But time and again the fight must be joined, with allies often coming from unexpected places, such as the DC based NGO, Catholics for Choice. In a year end comment one of its development officers, Sarah Raleigh-Halsing states:

“As the year draws to a close, I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of Catholics for Choice’s many accomplishments over the course of the past 12 months.

With your support, CFC’s effective programs protected religious liberty, ensured access to reproductive healthcare and advanced reproductive rights in the United States and abroad. Throughout the year, when the bishops pushed their anti choice agenda, CFC was there. We took a stand and not only defended individual conscience rights, but also spoke up on behalf of Catholics and non-Catholics alike who believe that the Catholic hierarchy has no place in determining reproductive health and rights policies. CFC’s prochoice Catholic message reached more individuals, advocates, policymakers and media outlets, in more locations than ever before.

Telling the Truth about Catholics and Contraception

  • CFC’s powerful and popular infographic demonstrated that the broad majority of Catholic women use and support access to comprehensive contraceptive methods. “What Catholics Believe About Birth Control” appeared in newspapers across the country, including the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cincinnati Enquirer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tampa Bay-Times, Miami Herald, Denver Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and reached millions more people through Facebook and Twitter.
  • Elevating the voices of Catholics across the US, CFC launched the We the Catholic People campaign. More than 30,000 Catholics signed the open letter, demonstrating the widespread support among people of faith for access to no-cost contraceptive coverage through the ACA. The signers expressed their belief that the choice to use contraceptives should be theirs—not the bishops.
  • Galvanizing Catholics around the country to take action, CFC submitted more than 3,600 individual comments from our supporters to the Department of Health and Human Services. Catholics made it clear that they support coverage of contraception at no additional cost in insurance plans, and showed without a doubt that the bishops do not speak for them on issues of family planning or religious liberty.
  • Clearly articulating the Catholic case for contraceptive choice and true religious liberty, CFC also submitted our own comments to HHS, making the point that that religious liberty and access to no-cost contraceptive coverage in ACA should be available to all individuals regardless of where they work.
  • CFC’s messages on American Catholics and contraceptive coverage captured the attention of nearly 600 media outlets in the US and around the world, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, RH Reality Check, The Hill, Fox News, Democracy Now!, The Legislative Gazette, Religion Dispatches, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Huffington Post, MSNBC, and the Columbus Dispatch, to name a few.
  • Enlisting ordinary Catholics across the country in a grassroots movement, CFC issued a call to action to write letters to the editor about the Catholic support for no-cost contraception coverage for their local papers. Newspapers including the Denver Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, New York Times, and the Washington Post published the letters.
  • Investing in our international colleagues’ efforts, CFC worked with Catholic SRHR groups in the Philippines pushing for national reproductive healthcare reform. CFC’s technical support in the form of workshops and grants assisted Philippine activists in their vital role in the passage of a reproductive healthcare bill that had languished for more than 15 years in the legislature amid threats and bullying by the bishops.

Speaking Out about Real Religious Freedom

  • Challenging the US bishops’ claims that their religious liberty is under attack, CFC set the record straight with a widely disseminated memo that debunked the hierarchy’s claims while affirming true religious liberty and freedom.
  • CFC united leaders of diverse organizations to form Coalition for Liberty and Justice. The first of the its kind, the Coalition is a broad alliance of faith-based, secular and other organizations that works to ensure that public policy protects the religious liberty of individuals of all faiths and no faith and to oppose public policies that impose one religious viewpoint on all. The coalition of 50 organizations comprising leaders from the reproductive rights and health, women’s, labor, LGBT, reproductive justice, civil rights, secular and religious advocacy organizations, healthcare providers and medical and nursing students, and colleagues from both sides of the aisle has come together to share information, messaging and strategy to effectively challenge attacks on religious liberty.
  • In partnership with Americans United for Separation of Church and State, CFC facilitated a communications workshop for 15 CLJ member organizations. Participants gained knowledge about effective media techniques and strengthened individual and collective messaging on religious liberty.
  • In collaboration with the American Civil Liberties Union, CFC commissioned a poll to educate the media, policymakers and the public about Americans’ real views on religious liberty. As expected, the majority of Americans turned out to reject policies that allow institutions to refuse to provide reproductive health services on religious grounds.
  • In the Huffington Post on July 4th, CFC explained our commitment to ensuring that all people’s religious freedom is upheld.
  • In a speech to Hungarian activists defending reproductive freedom, rights and choice internationally, Jon O’Brien explained Catholic teachings on abortion and the importance of promoting reproductive freedom, especially when challenged by antichoice government policies that restrict access.

Countering Religious Extremism and its Influence on Global SRHR Policies

  • For the Rio +20 conference, CFC produced a new briefing paper on the Holy See’s influential but untenable position at the United Nations. The paper examines the disproportionate and negative impact its special status—held by no other religion—affords the Holy See at the United Nations. The briefing paper—along with a collection of key CFC publications on the Vatican and the Holy See—were shared with advocates and member state delegations in advance of and at the conference.
  • CFC co-convened the Global Interfaith and Secular Alliance (GISA) with the Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Center for Women to build an international network of organizations that is well equipped to challenge religious extremism and its opposition to SRHR. With a current membership of 25 secular and religious NGOs from across the globe, GISA is working in the international community to promote progressive SRHR reforms and messages to counter dangerous religious fundamentalism. The GISA statement on religious extremism was the first of its kind to be presented at the UN Commission on Population and Development.
  • Educating thousands of activists, the media and the public during the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, DC, CFC shared the Condoms4Life message that good Catholics use condoms.
  • Over 400 conference-goers attended CFC’s events, gaining valuable knowledge on a range of issues impacting HIV/AIDS, including accountability in public funding for HIV/AIDS programing and how to address the challenging questions that arise when communicating about HIV/AIDS from a faith-based perspective.
  • In press releases; opinion pieces in Religion Dispatches, and the San Jose Mercury News; a cover page wrap using a Condoms4Life graphic in the Washington DC daily Express; and on Univision, CFC demonstrated the widespread support among people of faith for condom use in HIV/AIDS prevention.
  • CFC engaged over 150 members of the European Parliament, the public and media about the controversial nomination of the antichoice Catholic conservative Tonio Borg for European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy.
  • CFC’s opposition watch report, highlighting Borg’s harmful positions on SRHR policies, immigration laws and LGBTQ rights was the go-to report utilized by activists, the media and parliamentarians.
  • CFC gathered the support from allies of the international GLTBQ, immigration rights and SRHR communities—16 NGOs signed a letter to parliamentarians, urging them to reject Borg as a candidate.
  • CFC spoke out against Borg’s antichoice positions to the media at a press conference, stressing that widely-held Catholic values support the right of all individuals, religious and non-religious, to follow the conscience as their moral guide while respecting others’ right to do the same.
  • Exposing the Cardinal Newman Society’s inappropriate role as a conservative watchdog group bent on negatively influencing higher education at Catholic universities in the US, CFC published an investigative report detailing CNS’ attacks against progressive Catholic ideologies on university campuses. The report was widely circulated to academics, policymakers and education activists.

Strengthening Communications and Commitment to Choice

  • Strengthening communications skills and advancing dialogue on SRHR issues among advocates, activists, medical providers and policymakers around the globe, CFC trained nearly 300 leaders and organizations in the US and around the world through our communications and values-clarification workshops.
  • Responding to their request for our communications and media expertise, CFC trained the leaders of the reproductive health community and key activists in Madrid, Spain, at a critical moment in their political climate.
  • CFC facilitated a communications and media training for elected Catholic officials in the US who are part of our Catholics in Public Life program.
  • Strengthening an understanding of and commitment to family planning and abortion care, CFC guided over 90 staff and administrators at the largest maternity hospital in Venezuela through values clarification workshops during an opportune moment when the hospital’s provision of care was changing.
  • Engaging new constituencies, CFC held two values clarification workshops for 46 participants in Lagos, Nigeria. Individuals working on a range of development issues including SRHR, peace building and maternal and child welfare attended and gained insights on a range of SRHR issues impacting their work.
  • Strengthening the commitment of activists working to advance abortion rights in Poland, CFC facilitated values-clarification and communications workshops for 50 members of ASTRA, the Central and Eastern European Women’s Network for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Health.
  • Working with CFC’s longtime allies in the Philippines, CFC responded to a request from Catholics for Reproductive Health to facilitate a pilot “train the trainers” course on values clarification so that local Philippine SRHR leaders could increase the value of CFC’s investment in the region by developing more trainers.
  • Galvanizing the faith-based and secular communities in Florida, CFC led a collective effort to oppose Amendments 6 and 8, which would have prohibited state funding for abortion care and deregulated state funding for religious organizations respectively.
  • Over 200 Catholic activists from across the state spoke out, writing letters to the editor, contacting state representatives and speaking to the media to demonstrate the widespread support amongst Catholics and other people of faith for abortion care and religious liberty.
  • CFC supported and educated US policymakers at the federal and state levels to advance understanding of prochoice Catholicism and Catholic support for SRHR.
  • CFC provided technical support and educational resources to 275 Catholic elected officials in 36 states who participated in CFC’s Catholics in Public Life program.
  • These policymakers publicly expressed their support for no-cost contraceptive coverage in letters to the editor and op-eds in local media. For example, state representative John Lesch wrote an op-ed in the Minneapolis Star Tribune explaining his support as a Catholic for access to reproductive healthcare and the importance of religious liberty for all, not just the bishops.
  • CFC engaged Latino/a policymakers who work at the local, state and federal level during the 29th annual meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials. CFC shared information on prochoice Catholicism, offered our educational resources and co-hosted a reception honoring champions for Latina health.
  • CFC educated participants at the annual National NOW conference and at the annual NLINI/CLIPP conference about faith-based support for reproductive rights, health and justice, as well as on the threats from the US bishops. Both opportunities served as important outreach and engagement opportunities for CFC to share prochoice Catholic messaging and resources with new audiences.
  • CFC worked with leaders from Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDD) El Salvador to advance a regional prochoice, Catholic SRHR network in Central America. CFC and CDD El Salvador conducted field visits throughout the region to identify and network with key leaders to help build public Catholic support in this region where women face some of the toughest challenges to sexual and reproductive right and health care access.

Meeting the tough issues surrounding abortion head on

  • Dealing directly with the challenging and often controversial issues in later abortion, CFC published Thorny Issues in the Abortion Debate in Conscience magazine. Other articles examined the necessity of federal funding for abortion care; a doctor’s personal experience as a later abortion provider in Washington, DC; and how socioeconomic disparities limit access to early abortion care.
  • CFC, in collaboration with bpas, brought together medical providers, intellectual leaders and advocates to develop a statement of values surrounding abortion. The meeting resulted in the development of a statement of prochoice principles that will be used as an outreach and education tool in future months to facilitate discussion and advocacy from healthcare providers and advocates on abortion.

Leveraging social media to create change

  • Investing in social media and furthering our outreach, CFC developed a strategy to advance our social media presence and engage new activists and supporters throughout 2012.
  • CFC has increased our Facebook presence significantly in 2012, with nearly 19,000 individuals sharing CFC’s information and messaging on social media. This represents a 744% increase in CFC’s engagement and outreach to activists via Facebook.
  • Utilizing social media, CFC’s online action center and outreach at the state level, CFC increased the number of activists receiving CFC action alerts and information by 255%.
  • CFC is working to engage more and more individuals with our work who will speak out in favor of sound reproductive health and rights policies. Please visit our website and Facebook pages to be a part of the discussion.

Sharing the truth about Catholics and SRHR

  • Reaching new audiences, CFC just released a new film about sex, choice, and Catholics. The video is the first of its kind to speak from the intersection between Catholicism and SRHR, providing individuals, organizations and SRHR advocates with authentic and accurate information on prochoice Catholicism. In the first week alone, over 3,800 individuals from countries including the United States, the Philippines, Poland, the UK and Ireland had viewed it. CFC is distributing the video and accompanying discussion guide to diverse constituencies, including progressive Catholics, journalists, policymakers, academia, providers and medical groups.
  • CFC is committed to providing the best and most effective tools to educate and support our colleagues in their advocacy and communications efforts. CFC’s new, updated communications manual, Telling the Truth about Reproductive Health, along with the a video about the training experience, will be widely disseminated to healthcare providers, collegial organizations and SRHR and RJ leaders around the world in early January. The manual provides messaging and communications strategies on a full range of SRHR through our unique lens that incorporates values, faith and support for choice.

Ok, CFC is right on about the issues of human rights that we all cherish, but sadly the leaders of its church of choice care more about the survival of their perks and power than doing right by their flocks, taking the liturgy and the pomp and ceremony forward as if somehow it could be a substitute for giving people the rights which should come to all humans and the other creatures who inhabit our plundered planet.

It is always the practice of religions, however apparently benign, to plant their doctrines and fantasies like flags of conquest on the qualities of desired human behavior. Certainly, for example, the 10 commandments aren’t exclusively Christian or Moslem or Buddhist or atheist or any one’s. They represent goals for us all, serving as a idealistic vision which helps create successful communities, nations and ultimately our planet.

Our unique US Constitution gave us lucky humans a unique new governing template telling how we might best manage our affairs while keeping a balance of power among all our citizens. In short, a means of allowing, amidst obvious and unavoidable disparities, enough fairness for all to sustain which John Locke called “the social contract”.

The religious extremism which has emerged against women’s rights and which has been urged by some of its leaders against basic human freedoms such as the right to NOT procreate should not be permitted to win. If I can be positive about anything in this troubled world, I have in my years of work in family planning observed women everywhere gaining more of such control not less and this must be the path to sustaining palatable human life on this planet.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013

By Donald A. Collins
Publisher: Church and State Press (July 30, 2014)
Kindle Store

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